Last week, the LMMI blog featured two of our four Keynote speakers, Elizabeth Epperly and Jane Urquhart. This week features scholar and author, Mavis Reimer.
Reimer is professor in the Department of English and Dean of Graduate Studies at the University of Winnipeg, where she has also been Canada Research Chair in the Culture of Childhood and founding director of the Centre for Research in Young People’s Texts and Cultures. She is co-author with Perry Nodelman of the third edition of The Pleasures of Children’s Literature and editor of a collection of essays on Anne of Green Gables, entitled Such a Simple Little Tale.
1. What was the most interesting thing you discovered while working on the life and work of L.M. Montgomery?
Reimer: I believe that I have found the historical source for Mrs. Blewett, the hard, shrewish woman to whom Marilla almost relinquishes Anne in the early chapters of Anne of Green Gables. She seems to have been drawn from the character of Ellen Findlay, a woman who was charged in 1895 with starving and beating to death George Greene, an orphan boy whom she took on as a farm hand. The Findlay case and trial took place in southern Ontario but was notorious in Canada and described in newspaper accounts across the country. Finding some of the accounts of this case was instrumental in my thinking about the complex ways in which the societies Montgomery depicts in the series are related to early 20th-century Canadian society.
2. Favourite Montgomery book and why...
Reimer: Anne of Green Gables: every time I think I’m finished with this novel I notice something else in it that I want to think about further.
3. Sneak Peek: Could you give us a taste of what you will be talking about at the conference?
Reimer: I’ve been researching the discourses of adoption that were current in Canada at the time that Montgomery wrote the Anne series. In the paper for this conference, I’m looking specifically at a group of newspaper advertisements of children available for fostering or adoption through the Children’s Aid Societies that were forming at the time, and using the advertisements to think about the significance of Montgomery’s representations of orphan children in the series.
4. What are you most looking forward to at the conference?
Reimer: Conversations with colleagues: my experience is that scholars who work with young people’s texts are warm supporters of one another’s work. There is often a feeling that we’re collaborators in a shared project, a collegiality that is less common than it should be.